Q&A With Emily Reitan Of Allianz Life Ventures

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Emily Reitan is the VP of Strategy and Business Development for Allianz Life where she co-leads the investment team behind Allianz Life Ventures — the insurance company’s corporate venture arm based in Minneapolis.

How long have you worked with Allianz Life for?

I’ve been with Allianz Life for 13 years, starting in finance, and also worked with our CEO as Chief of Staff for a number of years. More recently, I have been in corporate business development and strategy, working on ways to expand what the business can look like 5-10 years from now. During that process, myself and a colleague formed the venture team that makes decisions around our venture investments.

How many people are on the venture team?

My partner and VP Brian Muench co-lead the five person team.

Why did you decide to form a venture arm?

We are looking at different ways to partner with companies and naturally felt this would be a good way to do that. It’s a way for us to add value to emerging companies as well as our own business in terms of retirement services for Americans.

Would you say that you’re accomplishing that?

We’ve been active for about two years now and I do think we are improving the delivery of financial services to individuals, supporting the other companies we partner with, and benefiting our own.

What have been some of those benefits to you?

We have learned a lot about several things. For example, with Ladder, the way they are transacting life insurance and improving the underwriting process to the benefit of end consumers. Another is a company like LifeYield, their financial planning tool for advisors is something we can use with our own advisors. Those are two examples of how we have used the relationships to the direct benefit of Allianz Life.

How many investments has Allianz Life Ventures made so far?

We have invested in seven directly and on in an early stage fund as a limited partner.

What’s it like out there day to day from your vantage point?

We’re excited about the opportunities that we are seeing. There’s a lot of new ways to approach this business and think it’s important to spend time with the companies we invest in to ensure we are making a good partnership. The insurance space has been a little slower than other parts of fintech to come around, but overall it’s been positive for us.

What stands out about the companies you have invested in?

First, all of the companies are relevant to Allianz Life, which is part of global parent Allianz SE, based in Munich, Germany. Our focus here is on retirement products in the US, so that’s the starting point for us. What stands out to us is a product-market fit, a strong team of startup founders, and solid technology.

How about stage – have investees any been pre-revenue?

We have invested from seed to series C, and Tomorrow was pre-revenue company when we invested; Ladder is our largest investment and we participated in their growth and expansion round.

Are there any terms you require or prefer?

We’re not trying to make this any more difficult than it needs to be. There are no special or unique terms we are looking for, and we have talked about taking actual board seats but so far that has become board observation roles. We want to make sure that our relationship is clear and doesn’t get confused, so we will talk with the founders to understand what their needs are and consider our position based on that.

Have you experienced any exits?

Not yet.

How much is Allianz Life Ventures investing overall?

Not disclosed, but we plan to deploy capital over a five year time frame and we will decide where to go from there.

What’s your value-add proposition for startups?

Yes and it’s important to note that a lot of people can bring money, but what we’re really about is getting them access to industry experts, researchers, salespeople, business development, and people who have been in this business their entire career. We also have reach into the global Allianz network and really our focus is bringing resources to bear that can help the startup grow beyond financial capital.

All of our distribution is independent so we don’t guarantee any startups that they will receive that access per se, though we are open to assisting in that. Vestwell, for example, is a platform for advisors that we have helped bridge the relationship between.

Is there anything I didn’t ask that you would like to add?

Yes – just to be clear that we are different from our sister fund Allianz X, which is part of Allianz SE and a later stage fund at that, whereas we are earlier in our interest and focused exclusively on companies in North America.

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